Why EVERY woman should wear their clothes at least 50 times
You’d expect fashion editors to be shopping addicts, so why is the Mail’s DINAH VAN TULLEKEN on a mission to make us all buy less? Here, in her planet-saving style manifesto, she explains why EVERY woman should follow her rule for wearing their clothes at least 50 times
- Dinah Van Tulleken only buys clothes she sees herself wearing at least 50 times
- The British Style Editor has curated a capsule wardrobe of high quality items
- She explained how investing in quality clothing can benefit the environment
- Dinah argues consumers can force better practice in the fashion industry
Over the past 12 months I have bought two items of clothing: a fabulous check blazer from Whistles for £220, and a pair of black leather boots from Massimo Dutti for £125 that ended my search for the boot holy grail — stylish, practical and comfortable.
Most of my job as Style Editor of the Daily Mail is to keep up-to-date with the latest trends. Seasonal colours; skirt shapes; handbag styles; a dizzying array of headlines and pictures that could all conceivably imply the same thing: ‘However large and diverse your wardrobe, you probably don’t have enough clothes.’
Meanwhile, I buy virtually nothing. It’s an office joke that I wear the same clothes on quick rotation and I never go shopping. It’s like I’m a motoring journalist without a driving licence, a political journalist who doesn’t vote. Perhaps hypocrite is the word I’m looking for?
The Daily Mail’s Style Editor Dinah Van Tulleken (pictured), explained why she doesn’t buy clothes that she wouldn’t wear at least 50 times
Is it possible to be an ethical fashion editor? I believe so. There is a way of writing about fashion and being stylish without destroying this planet or breaking the bank.
It isn’t about not shopping. It’s about being a savvier shopper. Think of the fashion pages as window shopping, a way of deciding what you want before you head out on to the High Street.
It’s a little like taking a strict shopping list with you to the supermarket when you’re on a diet — a way of making sure you buy only what you really need or want, without accidentally straying into the biscuit aisle.
And don’t confuse being trendy and fashionable with being stylish. From now on, when you read fashion advice, the point is not to change your outfit to fit the moment. It’s to use those moments to help you towards a personal style.
My move to buying less happened rather unconsciously. It’s not a protest, I didn’t ban myself from shopping and it hasn’t been a hardship.
It’s not about saving money, either, although that is a wonderful perk. (Working out the cost-per-wear of my wardrobe was an eye-opener: my £99 cashmere M&S jumper, pictured right, now only costs 27p per wear.)
Over the past two decades of working in fashion, buying more simply started to feel wrong, especially in the past couple of years. Shopping when I didn’t really need to felt grubby, embarrassing, an expression of unnecessary greed.
People who work in food factories typically don’t eat the food they make. Not because it’s poisonous but because they see the shortcuts, the lack of quality.
Dinah (pictured) says her 81-years-old mother comes from a generation of people who would wear the same item for years and wore her wedding dress to parties for more than 20 years
I work in the fashion factory. I’ve seen behind the curtain: there’s a lot of low-quality stuff that I know won’t last and will just make me poor and unhappy. But more than that, I get to see the scale of production and have become increasingly aware of the cost to our planet.
Fashion is a beautiful industry, but an ugly business. The fashion industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee believes swift action is required. If current consumption continues, ‘[Clothes] will account for more than a quarter of our total impact on climate change by 2050,’ it says.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
My mother is 81 and her generation might wear an item of clothing for years. Clothing wasn’t updated — it was replaced when necessary, often after many repairs. A woman might own one or two special occasion outfits which would last not years but decades, perhaps a lifetime.
Mum got married in a navy Biba dress and I remember her still wearing it to parties more than 20 years later.
Clothing is now, literally, disposable. We went from replacements once a decade through to annual and seasonal updates. Now there are no longer seasons, just a constant turnover of micro-trends. Even if you don’t consider yourself trendy, we’re all buying twice as many clothes as we did only ten years ago.
… And I’m not the only fashion editor doing it
VOGUE editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is rarely seen without her Manolo Blahniks, which the designer made just for her . . .
VOGUE editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has been spotted wearing her custom Manolo Blahniks many times throughout the years, pictured left in 2015 and right in 2016
Anna wore the shoes in May 2017 (pictured left) with a tweed dress and in September 2017 (pictured right) to complete a floral look
Anna stepped out in the heels in April 2019 (pictured left) and again in June 2019 (pictured right), proving them to be a timeless wardrobe staple
The waste is staggering. A Western family throws away on average 30kg of clothing each year — the equivalent of about six large loads of washing.
These clothes aren’t recycled or donated, they’re simply thrown into landfill. Since three-quarters of all clothing is made of synthetic plastic fibres, like nylon and polyester, they will take more than 200 years to decompose. That’s a lot of cheap dresses for the archaeologists of the future to discover.
We Britons are particularly bad — British shoppers buy far more new clothes than any other nation in Europe although we’re certainly no better dressed.
So I have a rule. Unless I can see myself wearing an item at least 50 times I won’t buy it. That’s once a week for a year, and I usually wear my stuff far more than this. It immediately rules out a whole load of shopping. I don’t want to give my money to some of the richest people in the world for environmentally-damaging, disposable clothes that feel dated before I’ve even got them home.
This means quality is my number one criterion for a purchase. What I wear is going to be washed multiple times. I never used to be someone who washed an item after every wear, but now I’ve got a two-year-old daughter, it’s become essential. I shouldn’t really come to work covered in porridge fingerprints and shiny snot trails (even if I often do).
My environmental awakening was gradual. We’re all starting to care more about our planet as the effects of climate change start to feel closer to home.
Dinah (pictured) emptied her wardrobe while she was on maternity leave and has since curated a capsule from High Street and designer brands
I had my daughter during the record-breaking summer of 2017. As London boiled I started to realise the impact of a child, while being forced to think about her future.
The amount we waste was hammered home to me. In the same way we have become accustomed to mindlessly buying tat at Christmas, so the arrival of a new baby brings a house full of stuff — clothes, toys, all used for the briefest of times.
And when that child has a birthday there’s even more. Clothes she’ll never wear. Toys she’ll never play with. Parties bring as much guilt as joy with their piles of brand-new plastic toys in their cellophane-wrapped boxes. And there I was returning to work as a fashion editor, this job where a big part of what I do encourages people to buy more.
On maternity leave I emptied my wardrobe of things I should, or could, wear and left only the things I actually do wear. Out went the ill-fitting dresses, statement skirts, colourful tops and wacky jeans — a car boot-full went to our local hospice shop. The classic trousers, comfortable denim, cotton shirts and T-shirts and cashmere jumpers stayed. And that was it.
This made getting dressed in the morning, bleary-eyed with a toddler attached to my leg, much easier. Statistics say people wear only 20 per cent of their wardrobe on a regular basis and that was certainly true for me.
I have never been a prolific shopper. It’s not something I enjoy. But working in fashion meant that over the years, with exclusive previews, Press discounts and gifts, I had acquired an extensive wardrobe.
Now I have a capsule one that consists of ten pairs of jeans in different styles and colours; five pairs of tailored trousers, straight and wide-leg; a selection of classic shirts with no superfluous details; black, white and grey cotton T-shirts, and a few dresses that can be worn to special occasions if necessary. It’s a mix of High Street and designer.
Dinah (pictured) argues big companies can be forced into better practice if consumers stop buying so much
If you build a wardrobe with care, and you’re lucky enough to be able to invest in high-quality pieces once in a while, it will cost you — and the planet — far less.
Natural fibres are a good place to start. They age well, they can handle the daily abuse life throws at them and the repeat washing, and, importantly, they don’t promote bacterial growth.
Cotton and wool will never smell in quite the way that polyester and nylon do. When I’m done with them, they can be recycled and, when they are eventually thrown away, they will biodegrade and won’t end up poisoning the oceans.
Everyone can find a personal style that suits their life, using natural fibres and timeless fabrics and prints. It can be altered, it can grow, it can be recycled.
Shop smart. Look at where you’re shopping. Big brands such as Nike, H&M, Burberry and Gap have all signed up to the Make Fashion Circular initiative, which launched in 2017 and aims to improve the fashion industry’s record on sustainability and reduce global waste.
But we all need to be the incentive for many of the big companies to change. Consumers can force better practice — if we stop buying quite so much, retailers will stop producing quite so much, too.
Change may well be slow — as always when so much money is at stake — but the choices we make have immense power.
MY CAPSULE WARDROBE: THE ONLY 12 PIECES YOU NEED
Veja at net-a-porter.com
Conscious collection at hm.com
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